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Studio Ghibli’s – Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Submitted by on December 9, 2008 – 4:27 pm3 Comments

For anyone who has ever visited the forum section of this site (when it was live) you will know that I don’t think much of Studio Ghibli. I have yet to see the appeal of their work; above interesting animation and childlike stories. The innocence that people speak of doesn’t make for a good story. I will accept there is a timelessness to them but that doesn’t change the fact that almost an hour into them all,  I always feel like a .

Nevertheless in an attempt to please you Ghibli fans out there, I thought that I’d attempt to watch and review their latest offering: Gake no ue no Ponyo or Ponyo on the Cliff or Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (depending where you live in the world).


An animated adventure centered on a 5-year-old boy and his relationship with a princess who longs to become human.


I am desperately trying to be kind here but does anyone think this sounds like the Little Mermaid (with children)? Ponyo is a magical meat-eating fish and attracts the attention of a 5 year old boy named Sosuke (sounds like “sausages”). So “Sausages” has a mother who drives like a lunatic and lives on a cliff (hence the title) which is by the sea (hence the other title). The father is a sailor (in a non gay way) and spends most of his time on the sea. Ponyo’s father looks like on a good day and she herself looks like a red slug (whilst being a fish) and the character of Annie from the film Annie (whilst being human). Along with this, when she is feeling extra magical she turns into a chicken (or something close to it).

Okay that’s enough! We are getting very very silly here! Okay so there are no Cat in sight but there might as well be. How am I expected to seriously review a film that is catered for the individuals in our world on a permanent LSD tip? Perhaps that is my problem. Should I not be sober whilst appreciating any of Studio Ghibli’s work? I would never argue that their animation is unique. I would argue that some of their animation looks amateur but I have been told on too many an occasion that this is deliberate.

Studio Ghibli as an entity is comparable to a pile of bricks in an art gallery. There are some of us who will see the pure genius behind it and will ensure that they try and explain this genius in full detail to whoever will listen. However there are others who see a pile of bricks on the floor and think “what a waste of bricks”. I do not fit into either of those two categories. I would look at the said bricks on the floor and ask a thousand “why’s”. Such as: Why would someone pay good money to have that taking up floor space? Why haven’t I got a job where I can throw bricks on a floor and be paid and respected for it? Why are there fools on this planet that believe the bricks are anything more than just bricks? Art….why?  I would spend many years arguing the fact that these art lovers are being duped by a clumsy builder. Surely if something requires explaining to me, than it is not as good as it should be! If you were to tell me a joke and had to explain the punchline because I didn’t understand it, It would not be funny.

It doesn’t matter then, how many times I watch Princess Mononoke I will never “get it”; nor do I want to at this point. I should not need to review a film differently than I do other films. Animation in my view is merely another way of telling a story and not a genre as most people these days tend to think.  If I think that the way it is telling a story is pretentious and unnecessary then I shall let people know!

That being said, I am being a little harsh on Studio Ghibli as this is the first film of theirs (of which I have seen) that isn’t that bad. Despite the characters highly resembling others from My Totoro it is surprisingly watchable. However, “watchable” does not mean “good”. It merely means I wasn’t suicidal to any great degree whilst watching it.

I suppose I should dedicate a paragraph to Ponyo’s themes but I just couldn’t be bothered. I will let you know though, that this is the first Ghibli film that is unlikely to give me nightmares (the Cat Bus disturbed me for weeks). It is for you trip-loving hippies out there who enjoy a good meander through cheese flavoured hills.


Fans of Ghibli are unlikely to appreciate it due to the lack of imagination (in comparison with their old work) and newcomers to the studio’s animation are likely to find a better story in ’s The Little Mermaid. At least the Disney version had catchy songs to sing along to…Under the sea etc.

So there you have it. I started the film not likely Studio Ghibli’s work and ended it feeling exactly the same way. Rest assured, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (or bucket or whatever) will not be added to my DVD collection. I’m sure it’ll find its place in history though….under the “not unique in any way” section.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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